Perhaps a sign of the times, over 40 Michelin-starred restaurants, including Tom Kerridge’s Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, Kitchin in Edinburgh and Angel at Hetton in Skipton, are participating in the discount scheme. Many high-end establishments have created cheaper dishes suitable for the discount to generate additional business.
The program offers diners a 50% reduction on meals taken at the establishment on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays in August, with the reduction capped at £ 10 per person. The companies are then reimbursed by the Treasury and the giveaway is expected to cost the taxpayer £ 500million.
Restaurant owners hope the program will stimulate a struggling industry. Hawksmoor, the upscale steak restaurant chain, said it received 5,500 reservations in six hours after advertising ‘Britain’s best steak and chips’ for a ten (this cut the cost of a serving from 300 g rump steak and fries £ 30) to £ 20 before applying the discount).
“We have sold virtually all of the blankets available Monday through Wednesday in August, at our restaurants in London, Manchester and Edinburgh,” said Will Beckett, one of the co-owners. “Restaurants traditionally make all their profits from Thursday to Sunday, but it’s difficult with social distancing. Almost all restaurants have some sort of excess capacity Monday through Wednesday. ”
“I’m aware we’re an upscale steak restaurant, but I think it’s a win-win for everyone. For the industry, it’s just a free kick. It will be great to have very busy restaurants and that means more work for the staff.UKHospitality, the industry’s trade body, which has spoken about the existential crisis facing operators in the wake of the pandemic, described the program as a potential lifeline.
“The program should be a vital lifeline for many businesses, but will never be as effective as businesses and customers allow,” said CEO Kate Nicholls. “If we can get more customers out of their homes and back to restaurants, bars and pubs, then it will definitely be a success.
“Consumer confidence still seems low and we need to show people it is safe to go out and have a good time. If the legacy of the program is that people return to hospitality after months of absence, then it will be positive.
Britons typically spend around £ 33 billion a year in restaurants, a figure that jumps to £ 50 billion if bar money is included. The average amount spent on a meal in the UK is just over £ 16 per person, giving the discount scheme general appeal.
However, it is estimated that around half of the UK’s 30,900 restaurants are still closed (the 130,000 businesses targeted by the Discount Dining Program also include pubs, bars, in-store cafes and fast food outlets. ) and there is a question mark over how many will eventually reopen amid a wave of closings announced by casual dining chains including Ask Italian, Zizzi, and Pizza Express. Some chains have not yet opened all of their sites and have been selective in listing locations to offer the discount.
“This in itself is a good plan, it will really encourage people to think about eating out,” said Peter Backman, a restaurant consultant. “Its very important.”
The deal could persuade someone who is “enthusiastic” about eating out to have extra meals, possibly with their kids in tow, Backman added. He said: ‘Then there’s the borderline customer who doesn’t really feel comfortable dining out, but maybe £ 10 is enough to push him over the line.
“Overall I think the program will add more business, whether it’s longer term or whether it’s just a failure in August, I don’t know.”
The Rockfish group, which operates eight restaurants in Devon and Dorset, say the deal made their phones ring. With its customers spending in the low 20s per capita, the restaurant should benefit from increased demand.
“We’ve had a lot of people calling and saying what to do and we’re saying the only thing you need to do is book a table,” Restaurant Manager Dave Strauss said. “We are now fully booked Monday through Wednesday at most locations.
“A family of four is going to come out and have £ 40 on that bill,” Strauss said. “It’s normally the kind of thing restaurants do in January, but it’s the peak of the summer season and we’re going to be full. There is a wave of optimism surrounding something that seems to have no hold. ”
With the program firing on fire given the government’s new push to cut obesity levels, Backman said there were plenty of healthy items on the menus to choose from, with evidence indicating that the British were trying restaurants that ‘they normally couldn’t afford. “It doesn’t force us to eat burgers at all. It makes us go out and eat in a restaurant.